Sacking Pioli will not solve Milan problems
The calls are growing for Stefano Pioli to be sacked, but Susy Campanale feels the...
The calls are growing for Stefano Pioli to be sacked, but Susy Campanale feels the fitness coach is the only one who really needs to go right now.
Milan supporters have been oddly hell-bent on getting rid of Stefano Pioli practically since the moment he won the Scudetto. Perhaps the modern fans have short memories and have forgotten just how badly the club was doing in recent years, the limitations on the budget and how surprising it was for them to win the Serie A title at that time. They assume the name AC Milan automatically guarantees silverware and respect, when both have to be earned each and every season.
Instead, Pioli appears to be blamed for certain ills that are not entirely his fault and I don’t see how replacing him on the bench is going to help resolve those issues.
His tactics are regularly criticised for not scoring enough goals, but looking at the statistics, Milan have absolutely the worst conversation rate of all the teams in the Champions League group phase, scoring just 3.7% of their total 136 shots on goal, 95 of which were on target. That is not a tactical problem, because the chances are definitely being created, it is one of poor finishing.
This too I believe can be traced back to the fitness coach, as when players get in front of goal and lack the sharpness to find the net, that is often due to fatigue. Of course, some problems are endemic, as it doesn’t matter who is at the helm, Rafael Leao will never be a consistent figure able to bring his A game to every match. That is something Milan fans are just going to have to accept.
The biggest reason to keep Pioli is to be found in the underwhelming list of potential replacements. Ignazio Abate is doing well with the Primavera team, but he has zero experience at this level and would likely only be a front for the behind the scenes takeover by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. If what the Rossoneri squad need is Ibra to be their motivator, he can do that anyway in his new role as ‘Senior Advisor’ – whatever that is supposed to mean – without the need to fire the coach too.
Some of the names floated in the media include Graham Potter formerly of Chelsea, ex-Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch and Oliver Glasner of Eintracht Frankfurt. So those of you complaining that Milan have barely any Italian players left, don’t worry, they are trying to get foreign tacticians in too.
Most worrying of all is the suggestion Antonio Conte would be on the wish-list for Gerry Cardinale. Leaving aside the fact he was in charge of their biggest rivals Inter and before that Juventus, but his style of football is so depressingly dull, negative, defend and counter, it is the antithesis of what Milan traditionally represent. Pioli won the title with beautiful, flowing football and this would feel like a huge step backwards.
Pioli cannot be blamed for the transfer strategy, which packed the squad with players who needed to adapt to Serie A and left the issue of a striker to the very last minute, eventually having to accept Luka Jovic being shoved through their letterbox by a frantic Fiorentina. He was not so much a Secret Santa as a desperate regifting, which in turn was still in the packaging handed over by Real Madrid the year before. When Olivier Giroud has to play every single game at his age, it’s hardly a surprise he’s going to run out of steam very quickly. This was obvious last season, let alone this time around, but was simply not addressed.
So rather than fire Pioli, I would suggest Milan completely overhaul the fitness coaches and medical staff. The sheer number of muscular injuries point to a problem with training, that is beyond any shadow of doubt, but the much-vaunted Milan Lab that was meant to use technology to predict and therefore prevent strains has not worked well for years, long before Pioli and his staff came along.
Never mind Conte, the man Cardinale has to head-hunt is his former fitness coach, now working for Real Madrid: Antonio Pintus. He’d sort out many of Milan’s problems and allow Pioli to focus only on getting his team to play good football. Give Pintus carte blanche to revamp the Milan medical centre and resolve these issues for any and all coaches in future.